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What is multi-cloud? 

Multi-cloud is a term for the use of more than one public cloud service provider for virtual data storage or computing power resources, with or without any existing private cloud and on-premises infrastructure. A multi-cloud strategy not only provides more flexibility for which cloud services an enterprise chooses to use, it also reduces dependence on just one cloud vendor.

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Multi-cloud service providers may host three types of services:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)

With IaaS, the cloud provider hosts servers, storage and networking hardware with accompanying services, including backup, security and load balancing. PaaS adds operating systems and middleware to their IaaS offering, and SaaS includes applications so that nothing is hosted on a customer’s site. Cloud providers may also offer these services independently.

Why use a multi-cloud strategy?

  • Unique Services: Organizations have the freedom to choose from different cloud providers to best fit specific application and computation requirements to their own unique business needs. 
  • Scalable: An enterprise can quickly scale to use more or fewer virtual data centers, depending on demand.
  • Speed: Global organizations can get services faster by choosing local public cloud vendors at all of their office locations. The closer the data center, the lower the latency. Using a local public cloud computing provider also decreases response time for higher priority tasks.
  • Compliance with governmental regulation: Some organizations may need to use multiple cloud storage providers to adhere to government regulations and data sovereignty laws that require certain types of data to reside within the company’s country.
  • Saving time, money and physical space: Most organizations that employ multi-cloud capabilities use the public cloud for IaaS, avoiding the need to build and maintain their own datacenter. The advantage of using public cloud for IaaS is that users can build a virtual data center in the cloud without needing a physical piece of hardware. This saves money and physical space, because the company does not have to invest in or store their own hardware. It also saves time, because the public cloud service provider manages, maintains and updates the data center. 
  • Future-proof and flexible: Opting for multiple cloud services provides benefits beyond spreading the risk of failure across several vendors. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, businesses can get everything they want, or might want tomorrow, without being limited to the services that one vendor provides. 

While a company could choose just one cloud service provider for their IaaS needs, not all providers offer the same services, the same price or the same quality. Companies need to choose cloud service vendors based on their particular needs. Multi-cloud adoption is increasing as cloud services grow in popularity.

Multi-cloud features 

Cloud computing requires a few components to function: back-end servers, a network, cloud-based delivery and a front-end client like a mobile device or a computer. Cloud-based delivery allows users to use a front-end client to access software that is running on a remote server in the cloud or data that is likewise stored in the cloud. Cloud computing and cloud storage features vary from vendor to vendor.

Cloud storage providers may offer automatic synching, version control and the ability to view and edit files from any device. Other features of public cloud providers that vary include security, tech support and pricing. A pay-as-you-go pricing model might work better for using the public cloud to accommodate spikes in demand, while another vendor’s pricing model may make more sense for something static like storage. 

How secure is multi-cloud?

Although public cloud providers generally provide robust security features, adopting a multi-cloud strategy is not without risks. Each cloud provider you add increases your attack surface and makes your organization more vulnerable to infiltration. Monitoring security becomes more complex because different cloud providers use different security monitoring tools. Obtaining an overview of what is happening in your entire multi-cloud environment is challenging, and it is even harder to apply and manage consistent security policies across all of the different vendors. A tool or platform that synchronizes and automates security policies can go a long way in helping to maintain a secure multi-cloud environment.

How to manage a multi-cloud deployment?

Managing a multi-cloud deployment is easier if you start with multi-cloud in mind when you are building your architecture and strategically engage all of the cloud service providers at once with one multi cloud management platform. However, this approach is not practical for many organizations who end up adding cloud vendors ad hoc as they are needed. Fortunately, there are many tools available for managing multi-cloud environments, and Gartner regularly explores the best of these multi-cloud solutions in their Magic Quadrant reports. Using containers in conjunction with a container management platform like Kubernetes is another way to simplify a multi-cloud deployment.

What is multi-cloud architecture?

A multi-cloud architecture is the framework or foundation for the use of multiple public cloud services. These services may range from AWS, Azure and Google Cloud to Oracle public clouds and VMware hybrid clouds. The specific architecture or pattern that each organization uses to plan and build its multi-cloud environment is tailored to its business requirements, goals and restrictions.

Managing the day-to-day operations of a multi cloud architecture requires significant IT resources. However, the right architecture strategy can simplify management, reduce risks, and improve operational efficiencies. 

Multi-cloud vs. hybrid cloud

Multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple public cloud service providers in a multi-cloud architecture, whereas hybrid cloud describes the use of public cloud in conjunction with private cloud. In a hybrid cloud environment, specific applications leverage both the private and public clouds to operate. In a multi-cloud environment, two or more public cloud vendors provide a variety of cloud-based services to a business.

Enterprises might choose to use a hybrid cloud to get consistent operations across environments, and because a private cloud is less expensive than using a public cloud, but does not scale as easily. If a business needs the ability to handle spikes in demand, it might use a private cloud to run most of the workloads, accessing the public cloud only when necessary. Or, if a business offers services that collect customer data, they can host the services on a public cloud or clouds while keeping sensitive information on a private cloud.

Related Topics
Cloud Security
Cloud Computing Infrastructure
Cloud Cost Management
Multi-Cloud Management
Multi-Cloud Infrastructure
Hybrid Cloud
Public Cloud
Private Cloud
Private Cloud Solutions

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